Today I went to visit both a Shrine and a Temple and I realized that in fact I do now know the difference, although I have spent a lot of my time in Japan not being certain..
There are two main religions in Japan, Shintoism and Buddhism and one of them has shrines and the other temples and for the uninitiated for a while it seems they are pretty similar, but in fact they are completely different.
Shinto is practiced at a shrine and Buddhism, is practiced at a temple. It appears to me (and I could be wrong) that people seem to practice both religions, depending on their needs..
So lets start with the Shrine, I visited the Shinto Shrine Yasaka Jinja, outside of Utsunomiya in Tochigi prefecture..
So how do I know its a Shrine? Firstly if its suffix is jinja, its a shrine..
Secondly, a seriously big gate at the front !
Thirdly there is a purification trough or fountain to cleanse your hands and mouth before praying and finally there is a pair of guardian dogs or lions, that often sit on each side of the entrance to a Shinto Shrine.
This shrine is called the egret shrine and all throughout is symbols or picture of this bird.
There always seem to be many animal statues at shrines, may not be relevant, but seems that way. In addition at this shrine there is a really, really big sword , no idea why but I am investigating.
Other clues are there are lots of Buddha statues everywhere and there is an incense burner for purification.
So that’s the lowdown on Shinto Shrines and Buddhist temples in Japan.. Other than to say there are thousands of both, wherever you go.
My research tells me over 100,000 shrines, and over 90,000 temples – the city of Kyoto has over 2000 temples and shrines alone…
Always one close by, almost always photogenic and almost always different. 🙂 So something for the spiritual, the photographer and the historian or enquirer…